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6 Best Credit Card Processing Companies of February 2023

Helcim and Square are two of the best credit card processing companies, but there are others that could be a good fit for your small business.
By Amrita Jayakumar, Lisa Anthony
Last updated on January 3, 2023
Edited bySally Lauckner

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For small businesses that want to accept credit cards, finding the best credit card processing company depends on which features are most important to your business. NerdWallet looked at factors such as processing costs, setup speed, fund deposit time, ability to accept in-person and online payments and customer support. Here are our top picks.

Our Nerdy picks for

Best all-in-one payment services option

Square

Best interchange-plus pricing option

Helcim

Best for membership-style pricing

Stax by Fattmerchant

Best for e-commerce businesses

Stripe

Best for high-volume sales

Payment Depot

Best for high-risk businesses

PaymentCloud

Our pick for

Best all-in-one payment services option

Square

5.0
NerdWallet rating 
Shop now

on Square's secure website

Payment processing fees

2.6% + 10¢

Monthly fee

$0

Starts at $0/month for unlimited devices and locations.

Square is a strong overall choice for credit card processing because its flat-rate pricing model is simple to understand and allows you to budget for a fixed monthly cost, although your actual cost may be higher than what you’d pay with interchange-plus pricing.

Our pick for

Best interchange-plus pricing option

Helcim

4.5
NerdWallet rating 
Shop now

on Helcim's secure website

Payment processing fees

0.30% + 8¢

plus interchange, in-person; 0.50% + 25¢ plus interchange, online.

Monthly fee

$0

Helcim is a standout choice for credit card processing because it checks off many boxes. Setup is quick. Helcim gives you the ability to accept credit cards in person, online, through an app or over the phone. The rates are also competitive.

Our pick for

Best for membership-style pricing

Stax by Fattmerchant

4.5
NerdWallet rating 
Shop now

on Stax by Fattmerchant's secure website

Payment processing fees

0% + 8¢

plus interchange in-person; 0% +15¢ plus interchange keyed.

Monthly fee

$99

and up

Stax offers plans starting at $99 per month that give businesses access to 0% markup on interchange fees, plus a low fixed fee per transaction. That makes it a strong choice for businesses with high sales volumes.

Our pick for

Best for e-commerce businesses

Stripe

5.0
NerdWallet rating 
Shop now

on Stripe Payments' secure website

Payment processing fees

2.7% + 5¢

in-person; 2.9% + 30¢ online.

Monthly fee

$0

Stripe stands out from the competition because its suite of developer-friendly tools allows you to customize the online payment experience for your e-commerce business. With no monthly fees, pay-as-you-go pricing and volume discounts, Stripe is a solid option for businesses of any size.

Our pick for

Best for high-volume sales

Payment Depot

4.0
NerdWallet rating 
Shop now

on Payment Depot's secure website

Payment processing fees

$0

plus interchange (no markup).

Monthly fee

$59

and up

Payment Depot doesn’t charge a markup on top of interchange fees but instead has membership pricing plans at a set monthly cost, which can be a cost savings for businesses with high sales volume. Volume-based discounts are also offered.

Our pick for

Best for high-risk businesses

PaymentCloud

3.5
NerdWallet rating 
Shop now

on PaymentCloud's secure website

Payment processing fees

Not disclosed

You have to call to get a quote.

Monthly fee

$10

and up

PaymentCloud caters to small businesses that work in industries that are classified as high risk. It’s a competitive option for merchants who are struggling to find payment processors.

Square: Best all-in-one payment services option

Type: Payment service provider.
Payment processing fees:
  • 2.6% plus 10 cents for in-person transactions (2.5% plus 10 cents with Retail Plus plan).
  • 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions or invoices without a card on file.
  • 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions or card-on-file invoices.
Why we like it: Square stands apart from the competition with its flat-rate pricing and end-to-end payment processing solution. This means it handles most aspects of a credit card transaction, so you don’t need to purchase a payment gateway (a payment processing portal) or point-of-sale system from separate providers. Square provides a free credit card reader that works with its free app and a smartphone or tablet.

Helcim: Best interchange-plus pricing option

Type: Merchant account provider.
Payment processing fees:
  • Interchange plus 0.3% and 8 cents per in-person transaction (if less than $25,000 in monthly card transactions).
  • Interchange plus 0.5% and 25 cents per online transaction (if less than $25,000 in monthly card transactions).
  • Interchange plus 0.5% and 25 cents per manually keyed transaction (if less than $25,000 in monthly card transactions).
  • 0.5% plus 25 cents for ACH payments.
Why we like it: Helcim's pricing model is transparent, with no hidden fees. Helcim uses interchange-plus pricing with volume-based discounts, making it a particularly cost-effective option for businesses with high monthly sales. The company has customer support available via phone, as well as comprehensive support resources on its website.

Stax (formerly Fattmerchant): Best for membership-style pricing

Type: Merchant account provider.
Payment processing fees:
  • Interchange plus 8 cents for in-person transactions.
  • Interchange plus 15 cents for manually keyed transactions.
  • $99 per month and up for software.
Why we like it: Stax's membership pricing model can save some businesses enough money to justify the monthly fee, especially if they have high sales volumes. Stax offers same-day funding for an additional fee. Phone-based support and an online knowledgebase also make Stax a solid choice.

Stripe: Best for e-commerce businesses

Type: Payment service provider.
Payment processing fees:
  • 2.9% plus 30 cents for online transactions.
  • 2.7% plus 5 cents for in-person transactions.
  • 3.4% plus 30 cents for manually keyed transactions.
  • 3.9% plus 30 cents for international cards or currency conversion.
Why we like it: Stripe enables your business to accept a wide range of online payment methods, including mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Alipay. Stripe also lets you offer financing options to customers through "buy now, pay later" companies like Klarna and Afterpay.

Payment Depot: Best for high-volume sales

Type: Merchant account provider.
Payment processing fees:
  • Interchange + $0 per transaction, plus $59 month for Starter plan.
  • Interchange + $0 per transaction, plus $79 month for Starter Plus plan.
  • Interchange + $0 per transaction, plus $99 month for Growth plan.
Why we like it: Payment Depot's rates make it a cost-efficient option to consider if you are a medium- or high-volume merchant. Its base plan has a low monthly fee.

PaymentCloud: Best for high-risk businesses

Type: Merchant account provider. Payment processing fees: Undisclosed/quote only.
Why we like it: PaymentCloud works with businesses in high-risk industries, including those selling age-restricted products like tobacco and firearms; businesses, such as electronics resellers, that have high chargeback rates; or those that may face a higher risk of fraud, such as finance companies. PaymentCloud also provides seven-days-a-week customer support for businesses in these industries.

What is credit card processing?

Credit card processing is the transmission of card data from point-of-sale systems to credit card networks and banks that ultimately results in the transfer of funds to businesses. The four largest credit card networks are Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. Credit card processing companies handle the logistics of accepting card payments and generally fall into the categories of merchant account providers and payment processing providers.

What is a merchant account provider?

Merchant account providers offer merchant accounts, which are special bank accounts that hold funds from card payments. It can take anywhere from a few days, to a week or more, to complete the approval process for a merchant account and start accepting credit card payments. However, these accounts are generally more scalable and competitively priced than accounts offered by payment service providers.

What is a payment service provider?

Payment service providers group card transactions from multiple companies into a merchant account and then transfer funds to the appropriate business. Setup is significantly faster than with a merchant account provider because the upfront vetting process is less rigorous. However, a business generally has less control when compared with a merchant account and may face more ongoing scrutiny by the payment service provider over transactions.

What's a good rate for credit card processing?

Credit card processing fees typically range between 1.5% and 3.5% per transaction. For example, on a $100 sale, a business could pay $1.50 to $3.50 in credit card processing fees. For a small business, these fees can be a significant expense. Two common pricing models used by payment processing companies to calculate the fees charged to businesses are interchange-plus pricing and flat-rate pricing.

What is interchange-plus pricing?

With the interchange-plus pricing model, transaction fees include the interchange rate, plus a markup determined by the processor. Interchange rates are set by the card networks (such as Visa or Mastercard) and vary based on the type of card used and your business type. In general, a merchant account with interchange-plus pricing is more cost-effective for businesses with high sales volumes.

What is flat-rate pricing?

With a flat-rate pricing model, transaction fees are the same flat rate for all payments accepted a certain way. For instance, the same rate would apply to all in-person card payments and a different rate could apply to all online transactions. Businesses with lower sales volumes are generally better off with a payment service provider because of the easy setup and straightforward pricing.
Last updated on January 3, 2023